Navigating the News with Chuck Todd

Political commentary icon Chuck Todd graced the School of Communication’s theater at American University last week, and it was every bit as informative and entertaining as you’d imagine.

Todd shared his thoughts on political candidates, being a recent fixture in the news after his conversation with Senator Ron Johnson, and even his assessment that we are in a national nightmare. But perhaps the most noteworthy part of the night’s conversation was Todd’s advice for navigating today’s media landscape. And though he stayed up until 1 a.m. the night before watching the Nationals, he made sure to “shut up and curtly answer” students’ questions—and he did not hold back.

Todd immediately asserted that he does not like Twitter and only uses it because he has to. Todd argued that Twitter caters to individuals who want to talk to themselves: they seek out similar-minded users so that their feed only consists of tweets they agree with.

Todd said that this is not the way to get your information (if you care about accuracy, that is). Instead, he advocated for the opinion sections of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. According to Todd, a quick scan of these will give you a better sense of the news than Twitter ever will, because they sometimes drive the platform’s conversation. Todd believes that the Journal gives better insight to what the opposing side is thinking than the Times does, but he thinks that both publications put together will make you much more informed and well-rounded on the issues.

Of course, Todd does have his preferences when it comes to political coverage. "The Washington Post political coverage these days is beating everybody on certain things,” he said. Todd reminded the audience that just because an organization is mainstream, it doesn’t mean that it’s accurate. “All Fox News does for a living is deride the rest of the press. And they’re a member of the media,” Todd said. Though Fox is number one in the ratings, it’s publications like the Post that should be trusted for information. 

And, not that he’d ever boast about his work, but you should watch Meet the Press. Todd offered insight on how he moderates the conversation on the show, and it became clear that the show aims to give its viewers as much unbiased information as possible. This is crucial in our world of fake news. “I wake up unhappy because 40 percent of the public thinks I’m lying to them,” Todd said. So, he ensures us that he slows down to fully explain every issue the show discusses—he doesn’t want viewers to get lost in recency bias because they have lives beyond chasing every developing story. He knows that’s his job, not theirs.

Todd explained that in the end, he wants viewers to feel both validated and uncomfortable after each episode. He thinks that people want to hear an analysis that aligns with their own viewpoints, and they need to hear some that challenges it. “I want to make you a bit more uncomfortable and a little bit more informed. If you’re squirming in your chair a little bit, good.”

 

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